Twelve months ago Ben Hannant had played his last game for the Broncos and his future was unclear but Cowboys wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo says he is happy the former Rooster, Bulldog and Bronco will be alongside him on Saturday night.
Hannant has proven to be one of the most astute purchases of 2015, playing in all 25 Cowboys games to date and helping to guide the young North Queensland forwards through the Origin period in the absence of Matt Scott and James Tamou.
The former Origin and Test representative came off the bench for Brisbane against the Cowboys in week one of last year's finals series and made an immediate impression on Taumalolo.
"I'd played against him and he's a tough bugger," Taumalolo recalled. "I remember him with his blond hair flying out of the line in the final last year and trying to put a shot on me but playing alongside him is a lot different and he's an even better person off the field.
"I look up to him."
When asked which current NRL player Taumalolo most admires, the 22-year-old perhaps surprisingly nominated the 30-year-old Hannant who only agreed to a one-year deal with the Cowboys at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
"Personally for me, I look up to one of my own teammates, Ben Hannant," Taumalolo told NRL.com.
"He's a competitor and competes the whole time he's on the field and gives it his all and doesn't leave anything in the tank.
"I definitely look up to him and when we play alongside each other in the game I always look to him and he talks to me during the game in tough moments."
Saturday night's clash with the Sharks at 1300SMILES Stadium will be Hannant's 16th appearance in an NRL finals match in his 11-year career, last week's loss to the Broncos taking his finals win-loss ratio to 7-8.
Although his team finished on the wrong side of the scoreboard against his former club, Hannant said the lessons learned by his young Cowboys teammates will be invaluable in the atmosphere of a sudden-death final against Cronulla.
"It was just a good arm-wrestle of footy," Hannant said of the 16-12 loss to Brisbane. "It was just a good game of footy, a really tight affair.
"We probably only had two or three defensive lapses and they made us pay and that's what happens in finals footy.
"There were only a couple of things in attack and a couple in defence – not much – but that costs you in semi-final footy.
"For us it was a good lesson that you can't switch off even for a second in finals footy. You've got to make sure you're on at all times."